A few weeks ago, BWs editorial staff sat around the offices oblong, stainless steel conference table to brainstorm ideas for our annual Pride issue. It was slow going.
Compared to recent years, the last year in Idaho has been relatively quiet on the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender frontunless, of course, a game of footsie in a Minnesota airport restroom counts as GLBTQ news.
Without a clear course of action in harder-hitting news, we focused on a feature along less serious lines. We considered writing about a shopping trip with Boises most out-and-about drag queen. Someone suggested compiling a list of the dwindling GLBTQ support organizations in the state. We almost settled on a look at being gay or lesbian in small town Idaho. But none of our ideas seemed worthwhile.
We adjourned our meeting without having made a decision, and I returned to my desk to pick through the archives.
Last year, Shea Andersens Pride feature surmised that GLBTQ media outlets in Idaho might spur new statewide cohesion among the GLBTQ community, thereby creating more momentum in the gay-rights movement.
The year before, Nicholas Collias printed a transcription of his interview with the coauthor of the Joy of Gay Sex, Dr. Charles Silverstein, and I navigated the states adoption laws for gay parents.
In 2005, Bingo Barnes wrote a brief history of gays in Idaho, including a funny bit about the first news-making trial for homosexuality in Idaho, which, ironically, was for two men whod supposedly gotten pretty hot and heavy in a restroom at the trolley house on Warm Springs Avenue. In that story, Barnes made a poignant observation, stating that the GLBTQ community was the last American minority continuing to struggle for equal rights.
Let that sink in for a moment.
Women have had the right to vote for nearly a century; the first Freedom Ride was nearly a half-century ago; Americans with disabilities have been legally guaranteed rights for close to two decades. And yet gender identification and sexual orientation still provide acceptable cause to marginalize and discriminate against millions of Americans.
However, its discrimination that none of us in that meeting face.
So we turned to those people who do.
Christine Boyles, Jody May-Chang, Kristopher Jenkins and Nicole LeFavour are all prominent members of the gay and lesbian community in Boise, and as such, theyve all appeared in BWs pages in the past. We sought them out and asked them to contribute personal essays on what Pride means in their own lives.
In this years Pride feature, we take you to the political and social front lines in the fight for gay rights, and allow those in the trenches an opportunity to say it all in their own words.
Reinventing pride for 2008
After recent years of uncertainty about its future, Boise Pride is on the mend
In July of 1998, I returned from Portland, Ore., to my childhood home of Boise. Ever since, Ive struggled to balance the urge to reach back to the West Coast with the sometimes overwhelming desire to plant the roots of home that keep me here. I continue to cling to the memories of my youth, summers with my grandparents in McCall, on the lake with my friends, camping with the guys, floating the Boise River and making out in the back seat of my Jeep with my first love (back then such a thing was perfectly innocent). My career, my friends and my family: theyre all really good reasons to stay. So, too, is the beauty of this city, the natural wonders that surround us, the quality of life and the security it brings. All serve as perfect reminders of why Ive chosen to remain.
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Unfortunately, Idaho is still not the happiest place to be when youre a gay man or woman, especially for those who sincerely hope to live a life of pure self-acceptance and honesty or for those who strive to one day be seen as one person among equals at work, at church, at school, on the street and in the eyes of the law. Its also a difficult place to find acceptance among your own kind. Ive discovered that our community can sometimes be ruthless and mean-spirited toward one another. Ill be the first to confess that Ive done it, too. Its like were always fighting over the same scrap of meat, as though its the last onenot to mention that some of us will play by any means necessary to win. I realize, of course, this isnt unique to our community but its still sad to witness, and it weakens our resolve to counter the discrimination and prejudice we each face every day.
Thats why I, along with some good friends, volunteered to create a new Pride organization in Boise. The calling came as necessity. Seemingly, no one else wanted to do it and so it wouldnt get done, unless of course, we did it. So we did.
We have worked tirelessly, beginning in October of last year, to file the necessary papers of incorporation and for IRS 501(c)3 nonprofit status. Weve done some simple things that havent been done well in the past, like publishing an updated and accurate Web site to make comprehensive information available to the community. We have reached out to past and new supporters alike. Weve established an organization that accepts comments from the community and welcomes their participation. Weve created transparency by asking individuals and organizations to become members. Weve instituted a set of sponsorship-level guidelines that set the bar high, and established a framework that honestly proclaims those individuals and organizations whove truly stepped up to the bar as supporters of the gay pride movement in Boise.
All sponsors listed on our banners, Web site and ads donated at least $250 as individuals or $500 as a corporation or business. Additionally, those who couldnt financially support us were asked to become our partners by offering discounts to Boise Pride members, which continue beyond Pride and throughout the year.
If you notice that your employer, your favorite places to spend money, or your friends are missing from the list of sponsors or partners, ask them why they werent on the list this year. Ask them to get involved, to give regardless of return on investment, or a perception that their mainstream customers will be turned off. Ask them to be guided by the goodness of their hearts and the compassion of their conscience.
One hundred percent of the financial support Boise Pride receiveswhether by the income generated through Pride 2008, our quarterly fundraisers or through donations from our sponsorswill be invested into Pride 2009 and toward our goal of making the Boise Pride Festival one of the best and brightest in the United States. Well do this by contracting a nationally and well-recognized performing artist to help us attract a growing number of participants and by continuing to reach out to new and currently unknown supporters. We also desire to see Boise Pride become the top fundraising arm of the gay community, producing events throughout the course of the year that further strengthen our sense of citizenship and solidarity, ultimately providing thousands of dollars in grant money each year to organizations doing good work in support of the GLBT community. This allows groups like The Community Center, A.L.P.H.A, Common Ground, Idaho Equality Council and many more to focus on the tasks of fighting the good fight.
In 2008, gay pride in Boise means a lot of things to me. It is a chance to start new traditions, an opportunity to spark new interest in the cause for equality and acceptance, and its a meaningful way to light the fire of hope inside our hearts, which can turn the course of our future away from the apathy of the past. Its a great sound in the world that calls people from all walks of life to wake up, to look around them, to see things as they really are and not as they believe them to be. It is the time for the GLBT brothers and sisters of Idaho to rally around each other, to recognize our common cause, our common culture, our strengths and weaknesses, our resources, our allies, our support networks and so much more. Now, more than ever, Pride in Boise means something. For the gay community, it means everything.
Kristopher Jenkins is the director of Boise Pride.
Pride is a State of Being
Live, Love, Be theme is advice for every day
The national theme for Pride this year is Live, Love and Be.
As poetic as that theme sounds, Pride is more than a slogan, its a way of life. It means taking ownership of your life and standing up against individuals and institutions who deny us our basic liberties.
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When I attend annual Pride events, Im touched by the sense of community and hope that follows the speeches and events, but I sometimes think it amounts to a brief vacation from the harsh reality surrounding of our daily lives. Once the rainbow flags are put away and the chanting has subsided, we still face a world in which we are marginalized, stereotyped and vilified by those who would prefer that we did not exist.
Although we have a proud history that includes many people who have fought those who beat and jailed us, we still have a long uphill fight to secure employment protection, hate-crime laws and marriage equality. While we celebrate the festivities of Pride events, we still face the reality of being second-class citizens in our own country.
After the Pride holiday is over, we have a tendency to fall back into the routine of our daily lives. But we need to work together to maintain the energy we feel during Pride events to be with us every single day, so that we can reach our goal of equality that the rest of society takes for granted.
Pride events used to be a rallying call for activists and allies to come together, but that message is often lost in the routine coverage by the media, which focuses mostly on stereotypical images such as drag queens, dykes on bikes and leather guys in chaps. Those are the images that appear the most outrageous and they gain attention, but in reality, we have fairly unassuming lives that involve jobs, families and individual routines.
Dont misunderstand me; I love the rich cultural diversity that makes up our community. Pride would be bland without our beloved drag queens, butch dykes and leather groups, but there is so much more to us as a community that is misinterpreted by those who try to define us.
Being portrayed as outrageous or a threat to families is part of the propaganda used to dehumanize us in order to discriminate against us.
The most recent example of this was the Western Days parade in Twin Falls, the largest annual even in the Magic Valley. This year, the Southern Idaho GLBT Community Center was allowed to participate in the parade, but not without a struggle.
Parade organizers Lisa Cuellar and Mary Ann Taylor ultimately allowed the center to participate in the huge community event provided they adhere to a special set of rules designed just for them. No pride colors, no rainbows, no references to homosexuality would be permitted.
Cuellar and Taylor went so far as to have the National Guard stop the float from proceeding to endure a detailed inspection by Cuellar and Taylor to ensure there were no signs of gayness, before being allowed to enter the parade route. The other 113 floats were not inspected.
Cuellar told KTVB, by whom she is also employed, that she just wanted to make sure no one was promoting an agenda. That is homophobe speak for we know you are here and we do not like it. So, if we are forced to include you, we will make sure you are invisible.
Who really has the agenda?
Last month, the so-called Shake the Nation political conference took place masked as a religious event. It was widely endorsed by Idaho Values Alliance executive director Bryan Fischer. Fischer promoted the lies of Shake the Nation speaker Scott Lively, who wrote a hate-filled propaganda book entitled, The Pink Swastika, which blames homosexuals for the Holocaust. Its another example of how rightwing fanatics attempt to dehumanize us in order to justify hate.
This is the same brand of hatred that allowed the Holocaust to happen in the first place. First the Nazis made the Jews seem evil and less than human. Lively promotes that same kind of loathing toward homosexuals.
Here in Idaho, we are reminded of who we are by the likes of Cuellar, Taylor, Fischer and Lively. They go unchallenged by the media and are frequently afforded a platform to demonstrate their visceral contempt for homosexuals. Their actions often lead to promoting hate crimes against us.
Many times, those who denigrate us and block our rights will hide behind religion to justify their actions. Their message is loud and clear: stay in the closet or you will be persecuted. They judge us and they dont even know us.
Pride is not simply a gathering, a celebration or a party, it is so much more.
Pride is not living a lie, not giving up living our lives so others are comfortable. Pride is walking though life on an uncertain and volatile path, with our heads held high. Pride is not allowing our spirits to be killed by those who vilify us. Pride is walking though life with an open mind and an open heart. Pride is staring down the daily fear with dignity and self-respect. Pride is claiming our birth-right. Pride is a state of being.
Live, Love and Be.
Jody May-Chang is the founder of pridedepot.com.
TCC's leader talks about life between Pride 2007 and Pride 2008
Eighteen months ago, I came out to my family. Sixteen months ago, I became the executive director of The Community Center in Boise.
This year at Boise Pride, I will be giving my second Pride speech during the rally. At my first Boise Pride, I was fortunate enough to meet a wonderful woman whom I recently wed. Pride is an anniversary, a celebration, a symbol of the passage of time, and one hell of a lot of hard work for me, every bit of which I love.
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Pride is also a time of reflection. Lets take stock of our wins and losses.
As far as wins go, we can jump a party bus to California and become blissfully wedat least until November.
But whats gone on in Boise to further gay rights? Rep. Nicole LeFavour has been busting her butt working to pass anti-discrimination legislation, which includes the GLBTQ community. Alas, we can still be fired for being gay in Idaho, but good people are working hard to stop it. The Southern Idaho GLBT Community Center in Twin Falls entered a float into the Western Days parade, and despite the event organizers ban of rainbows and any mentions of sexual orientation, members of the Southern Idaho GLBT Community Center marched proudly beside their black and white float. I was honored to be among them.
Rachels Challenge, a program created to stop bullying in schools, went through the Idaho school system; however, according to students, abuse of gay students being unacceptable was never mentioned during the speeches or in classroom training. This issue hits me hard. During the last two months of the Rachels Challenge speeches in area schools, I received information about seven gay children being physically assaulted in or close to area high schools. Seven scared kids. Two of them were beaten by multiple children, and one was sent to a hospital. I will beg: Please, if you witness an assault or are assaulted verbally or physically, please report it to the authorities, principal or school nurse. Together, we can end these assaults and hold those responsible accountable for their actions.
I do have one huge win to announce. The state of Idaho has started to reach out to GLBTQ youth. The Idaho Department of Health and Welfares Project Filter has agreed to sponsor Youth Alliance for Diversity, a youth group that meets every Sunday from 4 to 6 p.m. at TCC. Project Filter will be working with YAD to find ways to motivate the young GLBTQ Idaho population to quit smoking, by using their insights to create some fun, healthy alternatives and motivational incentives.
In between the baby steps, the gay community has made some huge strides in Idaho. Our state is slowly realizing they cant live without us. We are business owners, doctors, teachers andmost importantlykindhearted, giving human beings. No society can create a lasting beneficial quality of life for all without being inclusive. God created this diverse universe. Its time for Idaho to honor Gods creation.
Before Pride last year, at TCCs 2007 annual meeting, the board promised our members wed install a coffeehouse and rent out offices to help defray the cost of the new 3,000-square-foot center. True to its word, TCC now houses a coffeeshop in the facility, 3 Girls and Joe, and they make the best chicken salad sandwich Ive ever had. Also Angelic Touch Massage resides within TCC, the most skilled and reasonably priced massage therapy around. Both businesses are huge supporters of the GLBT community and deserve your support. Remember to pick up TCCs paper Diversity for updates from the board and to check on all our events.
Christine Boyles is the executive director of The Community Center at 305 E. 37th St., Garden City.
The Closets We Keep
For one day, Boises GLBTQ community wears its true colors
Pride means a little more in Idaho than it does in big cities, where people might easily forget what it is like to live without the legal right not to be fired from your job because you left the single earring in your ear or put a photo of your partner on your desk or wore the scoop neck long sleeved T-shirt on the same day your coworkers heard the Scissor Sisters blaring from your pickup truck. Imagine if you will for a second, all over Idaho, thousands of gay people dressing this morning for work or school or church or a family gathering or business meeting. Imagine millions of Americans and many millions of people worldwide in every country around the globe, in Africa, China, Chile; Des Moines, Iowa; Lava Hot Springs or in Caldwell. In all those places today, gay people got dressed for work.
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A transgender woman in Challis decides if she needs to wear the flannel shirt for the meeting with her boss rather than the scoop neck, long sleeve T-shirtshe calculates whether she can butch it all up a bit more with her canvas Carhart pants rather than the tighter, more feminine-cut jeans. She messes up her carefully plucked eyebrows and puts a baseball cap on over her long hair. Her gold rectangular name tag reads Jon and her boots clomp as she leaves the house for her pickup truck. The peeling and faded bumper sticker on her truck pushes the envelope for Challis. It reads: Wild women dont get the blues. Jon has claimed for over a decadeto anyone in town who would askthat the sticker belonged to a previous female owner of the 69 Ford, who ran off to Eugene with the district managers daughter after the two graduated high school. Jon, who we shall respectfully call Sophia, turns off the Scissor Sisters album before shes in earshot of the Forest Service parking lot.
In Kuna, Frank is shaving, using the setting that leaves just a little stubble for today. He has a long commute and his suit is pressed and perfect. Hes taken out his earring and the stud in his tongue and is adjusting his tie carefully. Not too carefully because, after all, this is Boises business world, not New Yorks. When he talks about his weekend, he will leave out all the gender pronouns of the person with whom he went waterskiing, his partner of 20 years, Damon. He will listen to his coworkers complain about wives and women they met in bars, and he will go home and garden and cook dinner for Damon. Finally, he will read there in bed beside him before turning out the light and curling up to sleep for the next work day.
This morning I get up and get dressed for a Legislative meeting, maybe the Criminal Justice Commission or Commission on Hispanic Affairs. I roll out of bed and shower, stare at the closet again. I know why the closet is such a symbol for queer peoples liberationbecause half the time we cant wear the clothes we want any place except inside there if we really still want to keep our jobs or friends or the seats in our churches.
I stand in front of my closet. Why cant I just wear my favorite black-and-white striped T-shirt with the holes and my funky polka-dot skirt? I think, No, that jacket makes me look too butch, I need soft today. I need to look non-threatening because one of my Legislative committee chairs will be there, and I want him to agree to hear my bill. I scrutinize earrings, my little collection of single earrings is off limits, as are all but one of my favorite necklaces. My light chain necklace (90s punk alternative staple jewelry) somehow (at least in my mind) has passed for pearls all these years. Shoes. I dread shoes. I have big feet, and sometimes I feel like a drag queen when Im putting them on because anything feminine that big is just going to be suspect to anyone from the gender police. I dress anyway, and put on my Legislators badge.
I know Im lucky. I dont have to pretend my partner Carol does not exist, or daily go along with assumptions from coworkers that my every aspiration in life is just to meet the right man someday. Still, there is the chill of a world that wants to be sure that Sophia, Frank and Damon and I do not make anyone uncomfortable. We are supposed to be invisible in part, never flaunt it. We are, in theory, not supposed to flame. Without legal rights, we live at the mercy of employers, landlords, strangers and friends. Is it any wonder we need just one day to be ourselves?
So yes, Pride is a day, from Kuna to Caldwell, Pocatello to Twin Falls, Moscow to Meridian, when we celebrate how different and unique we are. We take the love of our life by the hand and, here in Boise, we march down Capitol Boulevard, together, hand in hand. There are hundreds of us; some years weve numbered more than a thousand. And we wear what we want, let the complexities of our inner selves be what they will. We mix gender in the blender and climb on floats and walk with banners. We rally and then gather in the park to see people we havent seen in ages. We marvel at all the young people, at the new professional couples whove moved to town.
And, as the sun blazes and the colored balloons and flags swirl, we enjoy for a moment a world in which we are one community in one place, not scattered, invisible to the wind. Our friends and supporters and everyone who wants to work for our equality with us, comes and marches and rallies and wishes us well. Maybe they wear what they want from the closets that confine them, too, to those narrow gender norms. Or maybe its just Mom in her stretch pants and Dad in jeans looking a tad uncomfortable at first, until he sees a co-worker or friend from church there marching nearby.
It is our day for us. In my mind, it is beautiful. It is a time to connect, to sign up to volunteer, to donate, to remember that we have work to do but also to celebrate how far we have come. It is a time to recount to ourselves how much we need each other, and how much we need our allies. It is a day to pull stuff out of the bottom of our closets and put it on.
Nicole LeFavour represents Boises District 19 in the Idaho House of Representatives.
The Meaning of Twin Falls Pride
This past couple of weeks, we have met and conquered roadblocks in Twin Falls that have really opened our hearts and minds to the meaning of the word Pride.
After denying the Southern Idaho GLBT Community Center entry to Western Days Parade last year, the Twin Falls Western Days Committee agreed to let us in this year as long as we followed their rules. Basically, we could use nothing GLBT-related. We could not hand out information related to meetings, Web sites, HIV/AIDS and drug-use prevention or teen suicide information. This was something that shocked and hurt all of us. The Western Days Committee would not accept us as individuals trying to help the community we live and work in.
When the extra rules of the Western Days Committee came through, we all thought, We are not going to do this, we would lose our respect, dignity, sense of who we are and faith in what we believe in. However, a good friend made a very good point: Why not create questions about who you are and get people thinking? We jumped on the idea. Everyone was dressed in black and white and a large board on the back of our float stated We support human rights! Question boards were made to help show what we had done, and fliers were made informing people how to find answers to their questions. We followed every rule given to us exactly. Even the float was decorated in a Western theme. Did we push the envelope a bit? You bet. But we kept our dignity, respect, sense of who we were and our faith. We also let people know more about who we help.
It was one roadblock broken through.
Our next roadblock was getting the word out. How should we tell people around the area and in different communities about the discrimination happening in our corner of the world? Through several members of the SIGLBT and the Web, we were able to get in contact with many supporters willing to help us in our fight. People offered to support us on the parade route. They helped write press releases and letters to the editor. They called the Western Days Committee and Twin Falls Chamber of Commerce. Some just sent a positive message or idea out to us. Through all of this, we have been able to connect with many more supporters for our causes, as well as connect with a group from the Magic Valley High School. We had once again been shown Pride, and to be proud of who we are, and what we are trying to accomplish. It was the second roadblock wed broken through.
The final roadblock came to us on parade day. Luckily we caught wind of it beforehand and were prepared for the challenge. The parade organizers claimed we didnt have our insurance turned in. However, we had proof theyd received copies of our insurance. We were given a parade entry number, and then we were told we could not go anywhere until we were inspected. We followed every rule, so they could say nothing but OK and away we went. We were all grinning from ear to ear with Pride. We held on to everything we valued and were able to start answering questions about who we really are. We busted clean through the third roadblock.
Through the whole parade and the time following, we received no negativity, only support. Even those asking for answers to questions were interested and proud of what we had accomplished. There was cheering and clapping and shouts of Way to go, Good job, and Keep up the good work. Our hearts swelled with Pride.
We learned, despite all of the roadblocks, that our community does support us. Unfortunately, there are individuals out there who fear us and are uneducated about us. In one media report, the Western Days Committee was quoted as saying, We have no problems with them being in the parade next year as long as the same rules are followed. More roadblocks have been presented. However, when we are faced with a challenging roadblock, now well gladly accept it and do everything we can to change it with dignity, respect, sense of who we are, faith and Pride. We can all overcome challenging roadblocks if we face things with pride in who we are and our beliefs in equality. Thank you to everyone who supported us and helped us to learn the true meaning of Pride.
Kelly Dickard is the vice president of the Southern Idaho GLBT Community Center.